The pandemic and the subsequent remote and hybrid work transitions have made virtual meetings the norm for several companies.
But conducting a successful remote meeting over tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams is no simple task. Organizers must deal with myriad challenges to host a successful virtual meeting.
Don’t worry. We have got you covered.
In this article, we will highlight 16 virtual meetings best practices so that you can make sure your remote meetings are a sure-fire success. To cover all bases, we’ll go over what exactly you should do before, during, and after the meeting.
This article contains:
(Click the links below to jump to a specific section)
- 16 Virtual Meeting Best Practices
- Before the Meeting
- During the Meeting
- After the Meeting
Let’s get started.
16 virtual meetings best practices
Whether you like it or not, remote work is here to stay.
But many things can go wrong if a virtual meeting is not planned properly. So we need to consider how to communicate and collaborate efficiently during remote meetings.
Use the following 15 tips to ensure that your next virtual meeting is a success:
A. Before the meeting
Before starting the actual meeting, you should keep the following things in mind:
1. Establish the meeting’s purpose and agenda
The first thing to do is decide who must attend and what information you want to share. You will need to plan the entire meeting around these two points.
Is it to raise productivity, encourage participants to collaborate on a project, or generate innovative ideas?
Having clear objectives for the entire meeting will help you achieve the best outcome.
You can post the meeting agenda on the group’s chat board well in advance. This way, all attendees will get the chance to briefly look at the meeting agenda and make a meaningful contribution to the discussion.
2. Choose the right technology and test it
Many virtual meetings tend to fail because people use the wrong tool or run into IT issues.
Take at least 15-20 minutes before the meeting to ensure that everything works properly.
Otherwise, you may have to spend a lot of time during the meeting to fix a technical issue such as:
- Slow or failed internet connection.
- Unplanned software updates.
- Audio (microphone/speakers) malfunction.
However, just because you’ve tested your tech beforehand does not mean it won’t malfunction during the meeting. If that happens, stay calm and politely ask the audience to bear with you while you sort the technical issue out.
3. Avoid scheduling hiccups
Many companies operate across international time zones.
This can be tricky when scheduling a meeting with virtual teams.
For example, let’s say you are in New York and you scheduled a staff meeting for 10 am. However, virtual participants in Los Angeles may still be asleep at 6 am and miss the hybrid meeting.
Scheduling hiccups can result in people missing meetings or unproductive participation of unprepared employees.
You wouldn’t want an important meeting to be unproductive due to a scheduling hiccup, right?
You can avoid these issues with scheduling tools like:
- Google Calendar.
- Microsoft Outlook’s Scheduling Assistant.
Using apps like these will help a person confirm their attendance in advance and alert them a few hours before the hybrid meeting and check in on time.
4. Consider privacy
Many meetings discuss highly sensitive topics that should be kept confidential.
So your virtual meetings need to take place behind a virtual closed door to ensure that you avoid issues like Zoombombing, where uninvited people join your meeting room.
Fortunately, virtual meeting tools have security features to ensure that only those with the meeting’s passcode will be allowed in. You can use such features and assign a gatekeeper to control and monitor who is in the meeting while you are speaking.
5. Check your camera
Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone isn’t visible on the conference call?
It’s like you’re having a meeting alone in a dark room. You can’t pick up a person’s body language, and they can’t see yours.
To avoid this, check that your camera works properly, the lens is clean, and that it’s positioned correctly so that others can clearly see your face.
Seeing a person’s facial expressions during the meeting facilitates the collaborative process.
However, video conferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom, etc., let you disable or enable your video.
6. Consider your background
Before a meeting, think about what is behind you.
If anything in your background is distracting, try removing it before the meeting.
Some video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, allow you to blur your background, while others allow you to change it altogether with a virtual background. These are both great options to hide what might distract your meeting attendees.
Additionally, use proper lighting as it is important to ensure that others can see your face properly. To do this, try to set up in a well-lit room and avoid any lights pointing directly at your webcam.
7. Minimize distracting noises
Before the virtual team meeting starts, eliminate any distracting noises, such as a ticking clock, the sound of traffic from an open window, or the sound of family members talking in another room.
To help control noise during virtual meetings, you can use noise-canceling apps like Krisp, SoliCall, Audacity, Noise Blocker, or apps like Zoom with integrated noise-cancelling features.
And remember to keep your phone on silent mode to ensure that any message or call you get does not disrupt your meeting.
8. Assign roles
The meeting host can create better audience participation by assigning clear roles.
It is good to assign someone as a timekeeper and someone to note meeting minutes. You can also find the most tech-savvy person in the meeting and assign them a support role if there are any technical issues.
All of this will help you ensure that the remote meeting runs smoothly and that everyone has a share in it.
B. During the meeting
Now that you have fully prepared for your entire meeting by checking the software, equipment, and agenda, it’s time to get that meeting started!
Here are some tips to ensure better participant engagement:
9. Mute yourself and others appropriately
Set some ground rules at the beginning of the meeting and ask your attendees to switch on their webcams and unmute themselves to participate actively.
During the meeting, the meeting host should mute everyone’s microphones at all times if they’re not speaking during a presentation or webinar. This is important to ensure that background noise, movements, breathing, or other sounds distract from whoever is speaking.
However, to maintain the flow of a discussion in small groups such as in breakout rooms, encourage people to remain unmuted.
10. Keep virtual meetings short
You need to be conscious of the length of your virtual team meetings.
You don’t have the luxury of giving people a 5-minute bathroom break as you would usually do in a live setting to break up the monotony of boredom.
Try to keep your meeting around the 1-hour mark and 2 hours max.
Break up your meetings into shorter sessions of between 15-30 minutes.
You can prevent overstretched online meetings by sticking to your agenda closely and ensuring that you do not go off-topic.
11. Allow participants to connect before the meeting
You can discuss topics with others before the meeting begins with face-to-face meetings. But unfortunately, you don’t have that same opportunity in the virtual space.
Allowing your audience to connect a few minutes before the remote meeting begins is a great way for remote teams to meet and greet each other. This is also a great time for the facilitator to use an icebreaker to help the audience to feel more connected.
More importantly, it also allows a meeting attendee to test their equipment and network connectivity and for you to take a roll call.
12. Brainstorm virtually
Brainstorming is a great way for virtual teams to capture new ideas and explore possible solutions to problems.
When you use the right collaborative tools, online brainstorming can effectively allow remote teams to connect, collaborate, and share their innovative ideas.
You can use whiteboard tools like Miro, Stormboard, Collarboard, and Conceptboard for the virtual brainstorm. These apps work the same way that a real whiteboard does in a physical environment. They allow you to multi-task and share the benefits of visual thinking, teaching, and collaboration in a virtual setting.
Screen sharing during the brainstorming session maximizes the amount of participation and leads to a far more productive meeting.
13. Maintain two-way communication
As a host, it’s easy to make the virtual meeting all about yourself and be done with it. But it’s a trap one must avoid.
People usually display some verbal and non-verbal signs of engagement like nodding, agreeing verbally, or sitting on the edge of the seat. These signs are easy to catch in a live conversation. But a virtual meeting requires an attentive and careful host to catch them.
A good host should know when the audience is losing their interest and how to bring them back. They can do this by planning the session for maximum audience engagement via questions, discussions, games, etc. And they need to remain aware of the changing moods of participants by observing their body language.
Most importantly, it’s important to remember that no one can demand 100% attention at all times.
C. After the meeting
14. Conclude with a summary
Try to end the online meeting on time and have a short wrap-up session to discuss the actions to be taken and to ensure that all meeting participants understand what needs to be done.
For a great virtual meeting, you can also use this time to address team issues and list the next steps before upcoming meetings.
Record the meeting and share feedback and follow-up with those attendees who were unable to attend.
15. Share meeting notes
Send a meeting follow-up via email with the notes and action items as soon as the meeting is over.
Your notes should always be clear and concise so that there is no misunderstanding about decisions taken or actions to be followed.
People may not read long-winded and complicated notes. Keep your notes brief, simple, and direct.
Software such as Google Meet, Google Docs, Hive Notes, and nTask are great apps to record and send notes to remote teams both during and after the virtual team meeting.
16. Evaluate to improve future virtual meetings
After the meeting is over, virtual teams must come together to identify what works and what doesn’t.
Effective virtual meetings need teamwork to assist those who are less comfortable with the technology to adapt and understand what is needed.
It is useful to capture feedback in real-time by using a phone-based survey tool like Poll Everywhere to collect feedback from each team member on specific discussion points.
You can then use the feedback to work out issues and discuss ways to improve before the next remote meeting.
Looking at the future of work, remote work is here to stay. This means that virtual meetings will remain instrumental, whether we like it or not.
If you do not plan your virtual meetings properly, you may experience connection problems, software issues, disturbances, and scheduling concerns.
It is best to prepare yourself with the best practices mentioned in this article to have a better virtual meeting in the future.
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.